Spatial othering: Examining residential areas, school attendance zones, and school discipline in an urbanizing school district

Dian Mawene, Aydin Bal


Drawn from interdisciplinary perspectives of special education, critical geography, and education policy, in this study, we examined the spatial patterns of residential areas, school attendance zones, and school discipline rates of an urbanizing school district in Wisconsin to understand the construction of spatial “Other.” We measured the city’s dissimilarity index to examine racial and economic segregation between neighborhoods and elementary schools. We also measured the school district suspension rates to examine racial disproportionality in school discipline. We then analyzed to what extent the redrawing of elementary school attendance zones in the 2007-2008 school year was able to reduce the spatial concentration of racially and economically minoritized students in one elementary public school. We found that despite the well-intentioned efforts of the rezoning committee to lower the percentage of students from low-income families, spatial othering at the neighborhood level continued to funnel students from racially and minoritized backgrounds into the school, due to the concentration of low-income housing in the neighborhood of the school.



racial disproportionality; school attendance rezoning; school discipline; critical geography; index of dissimilarity; education policy; spatial other; spatial othering; othering; space

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